Brexit blues

Issue: 161

Alex Callinicos

The British political elite, grappling with the process of leaving the European Union, face two fundamental contradictions. The first arises from the balance of power between the remaining EU-27 and Britain. Since British capitalism is so heavily dependent on access to European markets, the EU has had the whip hand in the exit negotiations. Hence the withdrawal treaty and political declaration on future relations between Britain and the EU that was signed off on 25 November was mourned in London and celebrated in Brussels.1 One can argue about how good or bad a deal it is—some of the cleverer columnists on the Financial Times have swum against the stream in arguing that Theresa May and Olly Robbins (the civil servant who did the detailed negotiating) managed to extract quite a lot from their chief EU counterpart Michel Barnier.2 But its content was largely dictated by the relationship of forces and British capitalism’s interest in remaining closely connected economically to the EU. The price of this connection—and of keeping the border between southern Ireland and the northern Six Counties open—has proved to be a significant degree of integration into, and therefore subordination to, EU institutions without the influence that comes with membership. To that extent, the Brexiteers’ complaints about “vassalage” have some validity.3 There is a huge gulf between their ambition of “taking back control” and the outcome that the realities of the situation dictate.

This contradiction is largely a consequence of a more fundamental one. There isn’t really a viable place for British capitalism outside the ambit of the EU, despite the fact that the referendum on 23 June 2016 opted for Brexit. One can see this through the lens offered by three historical moments. First, there was the initial effort by the Tory government in the mid-1950s to boycott and sabotage the negotiations leading to the establishment of the European Economic Community, soon followed by nearly 15 years of efforts by successive prime ministers to join in recognition of the fact that neither the mythical “special relationship” with the United States nor the disintegrating Empire offered a viable global orientation for British capitalism.4 Secondly, Margaret Thatcher’s government presided during the 1980s over the destruction of large portions of British manufacturing industry; the resulting reconstruction of capitalism in Britain depended on access to the European Single Market, which Thatcher was instrumental in creating for transnational corporations investing in Britain and investment banks based in the freshly deregulated City.5 Thirdly, the launch of the euro in 1999 offered the City a further boost since, despite Britain keeping the pound, it dominated trade in the single European currency.

Britain’s semi-detached status—in the EU, but still closely aligned to the US, outside the euro, but home to Europe’s most important financial market—was the ideal position from a British capitalism that is no longer in the Premier League of imperialist powers but that continues to operate globally.6 But what Brexit has dramatised is the conflict between this fundamental reality and the hugely divisive domestic political effect of Britain’s membership of the EU. As the immensely pro-European journalist Hugo Young acknowledged, “entry was meant to settle Britain’s national destiny, but in politics it settled nothing. It was immediately an agent of fracture, not of healing, a propensity it has never shaken off”.7 Initially, Europe divided the Labour Party, with the left opposing membership of the EEC and a section of the pro-European right breaking away to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981. But the combined impact of the role played by divisions over Europe in Thatcher’s fall in 1990 and Britain’s ­humiliating exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism under her successor John Major in 1992 made the EU a toxic issue inside the Tory Party.8 More than 20 years later, David Cameron thought he had a cunning plan to rid the Tories of the European incubus by holding a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. In the event, of course, he succeeded only in bringing to an end that membership and his own premiership.9

As numerous commentators have said, Brexit has put Europe’s toxicity on steroids, pulverising the political cohesion of the government (ten ministerial resignations since July) and the Tory backbenches, forcing May first humiliatingly to call off the House of Commons vote on the deal scheduled for 11 December and then into a confidence vote that she failed convincingly to win; it also poses an awkward dilemma for Jeremy Corbyn. It’s clear to most involved—including May herself—that her slogan of a “global Britain” is pure fantasy. Donald Trump’s unilateralist hostility to the EU seemed to offer the Tory right an alternative path for British capitalism, but he would push a hard bargain for any future trade agreement and, even if ultimately a favourable deal were struck, this would be unlikely radically to reduce Britain’s dependence on European markets (though the City will probably flourish under any conditions).10 In any case, Trump doesn’t offer a coherent alternative to the traditional strategy of US imperialism, which has been to support European integration within the framework of the Atlantic alliance; from the point of view of the main sections of the US ruling class, Britain has adopted a policy of self-harm in abandoning its traditional role as Washington’s key ally in Brussels.

The hard Brexit advocated by Tory ultras such as the preposterous Jacob Rees-Mogg would disrupt the cross-Channel supply chains on which the British economy runs. How then to stay close to the EU while respecting the vote to leave? This is the difficulty with which May has been struggling, and that Corbyn was able to avoid by taking a position of studied ambiguity designed to finesse the divisions among Labour activists and voters and focus attention on the Tories’ troubles; now that the deal has been struck, and as May’s own position rapidly erodes, he is finding it much harder to sustain this stance. The difficulty confronting May and Corbyn is all the more acute because both have interpreted the referendum result as a rejection of free movement for European citizens. This—dictated in May’s case by her own core prejudices, but a pragmatic move on Corbyn’s part in large degree in response to pressure from trade union leaders and Labour right-wingers—has made striking a deal with the EU harder, because free movement is one of the “four freedoms” that have hardened into a legalistic dogma that Brussels seeks to impose on its neighbours.11 But it also panders to the anti-migrant racism played on by the Tory right and UKIP during the referendum campaign.

Despite the widespread condemnation of the deal, especially in the Tory Party, May seems genuinely to believe that she can, in the end, get it through. Her calculation was probably that, although the deal is no-one’s first ­preference—Brexiteers want a clean break with the EU, Remainers not to leave—it can succeed if enough MPs see it as an acceptable second best, offering enough of a break for some Brexiteers, and enough continuing engagement with the EU for most Remainers. Instead, she has succeeded to push many hitherto loyal Tory Remainers into opposition alongside the ultra-Brexiteers. But part of her calculation clearly has been that it may be possible to extract more concessions from the EU. Hence her dash to meet Continental leaders after postponing the 11 December vote. Anyone who succeeds her in 10 Downing St if she falls would almost certainly pursue the same course.

How likely is the EU to offer Britain anything more? Its leaders have of course insisted that the 25 November deal is final, but to answer the question we need to dig a little deeper. The EU-27 have taken a tough bargaining line with Britain, partly in order to make an example that will deter any other member state from trying to leave. But there are probably more important considerations stemming from the nature of competition in contemporary capitalism. A number of commentators have pointed out that Trump’s obsession with tariffs is a bit old-fashioned. Major trading powers clash over the systems of regulation that govern access to their respective markets. Barack Obama conceived the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a means of ensuring that the crucial Asia-Pacific region would be dominated by a regulatory system that would constrain China.

More to the point, the eurozone crisis may have dramatised the increasingly dysfunctional character of the EU as a monetary and political union, but Brussels has been extremely effective in developing a system of regulations that govern the European Single Market and in exporting them to the rest of the world. The Financial Times noted more than a decade ago:

Sometimes voluntarily, sometimes through gritted teeth and sometimes without even knowing, countries around the world are importing the EU’s rules. It is a trend that has sparked concerns among foreign business leaders and that irritates US policymakers. But whether they like it or not, rice farmers in India, mobile phone users in Bahrain, makers of cigarette lighters in China, chemicals ­producers in the US, accountants in Japan and software companies in California have all found that their commercial lives are shaped by decisions taken in the EU capital.

“Brussels has become the global pacesetter for regulation,” says David Vogel, a professor of business and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof Vogel points out that even the US—the world’s most powerful nation and the biggest economy—is finding it increasingly hard to escape the clutches of the Brussels regulatory machine: “The relative impact of EU regulation on US public policy and US business has been dramatically enhanced. Even if a country does not adopt the [European] standards, the firms that export to the EU do. And since most firms do export to the EU, they have adopted the EU’s more stringent standards.”

The EU’s emergence as a global rule-maker has been driven by a number of ­factors, but none more important than the sheer size and regulatory ­sophistication of the Union’s home market. The rapid expansion of the economic bloc to 27 nations with a total of more than 480 million largely affluent consumers has turned the Union into the world’s biggest and most lucrative import market. At the same time, the drive to create a borderless pan-European market for goods, services, capital and labour has triggered a hugely ambitious programme of regulatory and legislative convergence among national regimes.12

The conflict between the EU and US regulatory regimes was a major reason why the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that Washington and Brussels sought to negotiate was in trouble well before Trump won the presidency and swept it and the TPP aside (though the latter survives under Japanese leadership). The slow-down in global trade growth since the crash (which Trump’s tariff war with China may be accelerating) is likely to exacerbate the conflict between rival regulatory regimes.13 One mechanism through which the EU exports its regulations is by concluding association agreements with neighbouring states. Stephen Adams, a former EU trade official, says that “modern association agreements…are designed to turn EU regional partners into regulatory satellites”.14 Thus the European Commission is currently trying to renegotiate a series of bilateral deals that Switzerland made with the EU in the past that gave it access to the Single Market while retaining the right to negotiate trade agreements with other countries—exactly what May has been trying to achieve for Britain. This report in the Financial Times gives a flavour of Brussels’s efforts to reduce Switzerland’s margin for manoeuvre:

Frustrated by Swiss evasiveness last year, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, finally lost patience and asked his team to “find me a stick”, according to one senior EU diplomat. “And they did.”

By extending EU market access for Swiss equity traders—but pointedly ­limiting it to just a year—the Commission was able to manufacture the sort of leverage that would be taken seriously in Bern. One finance executive in Zurich warns that a blow-up with Brussels over share trading would “rip the heart out of the Swiss financial system”.15

So Britain has been trying to retain access to the Single Market at exactly the moment when the EU has been determined to tie this to subordination to its regulatory regime (and the prospect of Brexit has itself strengthened this impulse). The bargaining advantage was always firmly on the side of the EU-27, whose economy is six times the size of Britain’s. But it’s important to see that, despite this asymmetry in bargaining power between the two sides, Britain, still the fifth biggest economy in the world and site of the most important international financial centre, is perceived as a threat to the EU-27. France, while actively seeking with some success to poach financial business from the City for Paris after Brexit, took seriously the not so veiled threats by May and ­chancellor Philip Hammond to turn Britain into a kind of European Singapore, where ­deregulation and low taxation would undercut EU-based firms. Maybe fearing that a Trump administration hostile to the EU might encourage Britain to act as a deregulated offshore spoiler, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark successfully pushed for the transitional arrangements in the withdrawal treaty to include maintaining a “level playing field” between Britain and the EU-27 and allowing the Commission and the European Court of Justice to police state support for industry (a shot across Corbyn’s bows as well).

This dimension of inter-imperialist competition will continue to inform negotiations on the crucial final trade agreement between Britain and the EU. “The power is with us,” gloated Martin Selmayr, Juncker’s ex-chief of staff who earlier this year was controversially promoted to secretary-general of the European Commission, on the eve of the agreement between London and Brussels: the deal has been designed to put Britain under pressure to make further concessions on fishing, continuing payments to the EU and trade regulation.16 None of this bodes well for any British prime minister seeking changes to what has already been agreed. EU leaders have so far ruled out the option of a legal declaration offering an interpretation of the backstop that might reassure Tory backbenchers that the backstop intended to ensure that the intra-Irish border stays open won’t last forever.

May and her first Brexit secretary David Davis laid much hope on those member states who would be damaged by a no-deal Brexit, either because they export to Britain (most obviously, Germany) or would be hit if Britain abruptly stopped paying into the EU budget (for example, Poland).17 But London’s efforts to play EU member states off against each other have been completely unsuccessful. Angela Merkel, once the strong woman of Europe and ever the object of illusory hopes by supplicant premiers (not just Cameron and May, but also Alexis Tsipras), but now preoccupied with the rapid decay of her chancellorship, has toed the tough line taken by the Commission and Barnier. Maybe the actual prospect of a hard Brexit if May’s government faces total collapse might concentrate minds in continental capitals, but the combination of bullying and bungling characteristic of EU policy-making doesn’t encourage anyone to bet the bank on this.

The political calculus in both London and Brussels points to other options. The default one is that Britain will simply crash out of the EU on 29 March without a deal. Since this is anathema for British capitalism, and since there isn’t a parliamentary majority for a hard Brexit, ways of stopping this are being feverishly explored—buying time by suspending article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty; and using this breathing space either to negotiate a different kind of association agreement, perhaps “Norway plus”, modelled on Norway’s relationship to the EU which would keep Britain in the Single Market, subject to the ECJ, and maintaining free movement, or to hold a second referendum. Either option would represent a major political defeat for the Brexiteers, but they have made themselves vulnerable through their failure to agree on either a coherent alternative to May’s plan or, until very late in the day, a strategy for removing her. Even if Boris Johnson somehow manages to exploit the political chaos to clamber into the Tory leadership and perhaps even the premiership, his performance since the referendum has confirmed that he is no Churchillian man of destiny, but an opportunistic, racist buffoon.

If the Remainers have a moment, it is now. Their hand has been strengthened by the ECJ ruling that Britain can revoke its article 50 notice to leave the EU unilaterally, without the agreement of the 27. The People’s Vote campaign held a huge demonstration in October calling for a second referendum, having previously been endorsed by the Labour Party conference. Its ostensible ­justification—requiring a popular vote on May’s deal—has receded in the face of the real motivation—restaging the Brexit referendum. Their arguments are shabby. Consider this effort by Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, once a ­diehard SDPer, now doyenne of the Labour right:

Indeed, slowly the pendulum has swung: YouGov’s 20 November poll asking “In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the EU?” shows 47 percent saying right, and 53 percent wrong. Prof John Curtice comments on relatively few switchers: the good old grim reaper carries off old Brexiters, replaced with passionate young Remain voters. Some 600,000 Britons die each year, while while 700,000 reach voting age. YouGov founder Peter Kellner finds that, due to demographics alone, by 19 January, just before we depart, the Leave majority will have vanished without a single switcher…

The prospect of another referendum fills me with dread, though I marched with the rest. The polling figures are far too close to predict the result. The campaign ramping up Brexit racism and hate, the bullying, false promises and fact-free mendacity will be vile. Will the BBC be as pusillanimous as before, giving equal weight to facts and nonsense? Rows over setting the vote question and months of campaigning will be excruciatingly divisive. But then a Remain result would see it all over and done with: May’s plan will lead to years more ferocious wrangling over the final deal.18

This is pretty contemptible. Toynbee acknowledges that the referendum would be “divisive”, but seems mainly worried that not enough Leave voters will have had the good grace to die off and allow Remainers to resume their traditional role dictating British foreign policy (on which they have an excellent record, with architects of the Iraq War such as Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell leading the campaign for a second referendum). Advocates of a “People’s Vote” are indeed in a contradictory position. They argue (falsely) that the vote to leave on 23 June 2016 was a racist vote, and also argue (with partial truth) that the result encouraged racism. But they advocate another referendum, even though the Tory right, UKIP (now remodelled under Gerard Batten’s leadership in alliance with the alt-right and Tommy Robinson) and open Nazis will rely on anti-migrant racism even more than the first time round. But Remainer ultras seem happy to pay the price in heightened racism in order to keep Britain in the EU.

There are two fundamental arguments against a second referendum. First, the polling arithmetic hasn’t changed the fact that British society is deeply, and more or less evenly, divided in its attitude towards the EU. Even if the Remain camp won this time, it would leave almost half the electorate feeling robbed of the choice they took in June 2016. Secondly, the racist right—Tories, UKIP, alt-right and open fascists—are best placed to exploit the resulting bitterness. In principle, Corbyn could relate to this mood, given his background as a critic of the EU in the tradition of Tony Benn. But his hands are tied by the strength of support for Remain in the shadow cabinet, the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Labour rank and file. Robinson’s decision to call a demonstration in central London against “Brexit Betrayal” on 9 December 2018, two days before the scheduled House of Commons vote on the deal, reflected a recognition of the opportunity opening up for the far right. In the 1970s, the National Front emerged as Britain’s first major fascist movement since the Mosleyites in the 1930s by exploiting Tory supporters’ sense of betrayal at the Conservative government’s decision to let in East African Asians. Contesting May’s failure to deliver hard Brexit could offer an even bigger opening for the rapidly realigning far right.19

Brexit has proved to be a uniquely divisive issue. It doesn’t just polarise society and split the major parties. It also divides the radical and revolutionary left; indeed, the disagreements that developed in the run-up to the 2016 referendum have been the most embittered for many years. The rational response is to acknowledge that we deeply differ in our assessment of the EU, try to respect each other’s arguments, and above all not to allow the disagreement to prevent us standing together on the many issues where we agree. Unfortunately, not everyone has responded in this way. Thus the left-Remainer campaign Another Europe is Possible demanded that the anti-racist and anti-fascist counter-demonstration to Robinson’s march on 9 December should take an anti-Brexit stance. One of the organisers justified this divisive move thus: “the left now faces a choice. As the far right and the Brexit project intersect, it can connect these dots and fight against the politics of Brexit while presenting its wider radical vision for society. Or it can stand aside from history”.20

The problem here is partly the suggestion that there is a single “Brexit project” with its own coherent “politics”. In fact, we see that the Brexiteers don’t have a unified view of Brexit or how to achieve it: Johnson and Davis left the cabinet, while Michael Gove has been hanging on, apparently supporting the Norway Plus option. There are many different theoretical and programmatic bases on which to oppose the EU, including some powerful cases made from the left.21 One of the great benefits of having Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and John McDonnell as his shadow chancellor has been their willingness to explore an alternative form of Brexit that would take advantage of the liberation from the EU’s neoliberal straitjacket that it could offer. Worse still, making Brexit a necessarily racist “project” dismisses the millions of working class people who voted to leave in June 2016 as natural supporters of the far right. This is politically criminal. Anti-Brexit trade union leaders, painfully aware of how many of their members voted to leave, have been careful to avoid this kind of contemptuous dismissal. Fortunately, the pressure for unity produced an anti-fascist and anti-racist counter-demonstration on 9 December that swamped Robinson, Batten and their followers.

Beyond these more specific points is a more fundamental question of priorities: which is the more important issue—the EU or racism? This journal has long opposed the EU as a dysfunctional would-be imperialism that seeks to drive neoliberalism deep into its member states and its periphery.22 On that basis we supported a vote to leave in 2016. Despite the criticisms made of this stance elsewhere in this issue, we see no reason to change it. But although we think it is right to stand against the EU, we don’t think that this is the most important issue for socialists. The referendum wasn’t something that the left had campaigned for, but was the product of a bungled manoeuvre by Cameron. This deep political and constitutional crisis is something that has been foisted on the rest of us thanks to the divisions inside the Tory Party.

The plight of British capitalism is unlikely fundamentally to change in or out of the EU: the Treasury and Bank of England projections that any version of Brexit will leave Britain economically worse off compared to staying in are only as good as the assumptions on which their models are based, and these have often proved wanting.23 The prospect of Brexit has simply highlighted the limits of the reconstruction of British capitalism under Thatcher, Major and Blair, but these limits would still be there if the Remainers had won on 23 June 2016. The dynamics of global crisis will continue to work whatever happens on 29 March, and working people will still face attacks and need to fight back in or out of the EU.

Racism is a different matter. We have seen it surging since the latter years of the Blair government and intensifying since the crash and the Great Recession in 2007-9. Brexit gave the far right greater confidence, but it didn’t create the racist surge on which they feed. Accounts that seek to explain this surge by the 2016 referendum ignore the growth of Islamophobia over the past few decades and particularly in the era of the “war on terror”. Islamophobia indeed has become the dominant form of racism today, and it is notable how leading figures in the far right target Muslims and denounce the “Islamisation” of Europe. The agitation of both the English Defence League and the Football Lads Alliance was directed chiefly at Muslims. Trump, immediately on taking office, sought to impose the Muslim ban on the advice of the alt-right maestro Steve Bannon. Robinson has acquired martyr status for the far right for his lying campaign accusing Muslims of being the main perpetrators of child abuse.

So we see the same racist surge across Europe and the US and, as the interview with Valério Arcary elsewhere in this issue shows, in Brazil. This is a mortal danger, not only because the suffering it causes from racist attacks, the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean and the Sahara, the sheer mental and physical distress caused by everyday state and popular racism, but also because of how the far right, including genuine fascists such as the Austrian Freedom Party, is using anti-migrant racism to break into the political mainstream. Trump let the genie out of the bottle, but now he has powerful imitators in the likes of Matteo Salvini in Italy and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. This is the issue—combating racism and the far right. By comparison, where you stand on the EU is a secondary question.

By refusing to accept this logic, some left Remainers are putting support for the EU ahead of fighting racism and fascism. Maybe the stress of the past few years has turned some of them into left liberals who have bought into the ideology of “Europeanism” and sincerely believe the EU to be a motor of progress. Others may hope that campaigning against Brexit will give them the edge against other sections of the radical and revolutionary left. But many left Remainers are much better than this—accepting the left critique of the EU but opposing Brexit in the mistaken belief that in current conditions it is impossible to campaign against the EU on a socialist basis. We disagree about this. But there is no reason that we can’t stand together against the main enemy—the bosses and the racist far right that the crisis of their system is strengthening.

One reason why it is important to avoid further damage to the left is that the Brexit debate can break out of the internecine struggle within the ruling class that it has predominantly been. In February 1994, towards the end of a presidency that had steered France decisively in a neoliberal direction, François Mitterrand warned: “Some people are suffering a lot: beware of fundamental revolts, when reason can no longer do anything”.24 This warning has been amply confirmed, most recently thanks to the bungled attempt at authoritarian neoliberalism by Mitterrand’s latest successor Emmanuel Macron and the gigantic, totally unforeseen movement of the gilets jaunes that it has provoked. Commenting on the clashes in the centre of Paris on 1 December, an experienced journalist wrote:

I’ve lived in France for 22 years and have witnessed street protests by workers, farmers, wine producers, truck drivers, railway employees, university students, sixth-formers, teachers, youths in the multiracial suburbs, chefs, lawyers, doctors and police officers. Yes, even police officers.

I have never seen the kind of wanton destruction that surrounded me on some of the smartest streets of Paris on Saturday—such random, hysterical hatred, directed not just towards the riot police but at shrines to the French republic itself such as the Arc de Triomphe. The 12-hour battle went beyond violent protest, beyond rioting, to the point of insurrection, even civil war…

…while Saturday’s crowd was mostly white (there are many black and brown gilets jaunes) this movement shows, so far, few outward signs of racism or extreme nationalism. The great bulk of the movement represents genuine economic and social distress in a peripheral and middle France which, with some reason, says that it is despised and fiscally exploited by the country’s thriving cities. Part of the French media suggests that Saturday’s protests were hijacked by ultra-violent sects of the hard right and hard left. This is also misleading.

There were groups of masked, young men among the 5,000 or so people on the Etoile and its radiating avenues but they were a minority. The great majority of the rioters were, by my reckoning, men and some women in their 30s and 40s from suffering rural towns in northern or western France and the hardscrabble outer suburbs of greater Paris. They came dressed and armed for combat.25

More important than the destruction wrought that day are the scale and causes of the movement and the capacity for self-organisation beyond the established parties and even the trade unions that it has shown. A Bloomberg journalist has speculated that Britain could see its own gilets jaunes:

what happens if traditional pathways for affecting change no longer work? What happens, say, if the political sphere is so unstable that there is no clear policy vision; if government not only ceases to be responsive but is no longer even coherent? Britain may be about to find out.

The 2016 Brexit vote, like the election of Macron and the protests against him now, represented a rejection of the established political order and a burbling dissatisfaction with the status quo… But the risk to the UK government from Brexit is actually worse.

The arguments for leaving the European Union were substantial and debate-worthy; but it’s fair to say that years of austerity, low productivity growth, declining or stagnating wages and rising inequality also made Europe a useful scapegoat. And yet the problems underlying the 2016 Brexit vote can barely get a government hearing, as the preparations and negotiations for withdrawal have become all-consuming. Meanwhile, Brexit divisions threaten to stoke populist anxieties with unpredictable consequences.

Macron, despite his missteps and flaws, at least told voters that the change he was going to bring would be painful at first. Contrast that with Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.” May made promises to Brexiters that she couldn’t keep, including total control of laws, money and borders; she promised Remain voters that access to EU markets would be maintained when that was not in her power.26

Amid political and perhaps economic turmoil, with the political class close to a Mexican standoff and big business looking on helplessly, either, or indeed both, sides in the Brexit debate could explode out of a sense of betrayal. The far right are trying to prepare for such an explosion. The radical and revolutionary left too should avoid getting trapped on one side or other of the debate within the ruling class and instead stand ready to promote and help shape “fundamental revolts”.

Alex Callinicos is Professor of European Studies at King’s College London and editor of International Socialism.


1 See the remarkable attack by the former governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King—King, 2018.

2 Sandbu, 2018, and Münchau, 2018.

3 For example, on the withdrawal treaty, Steerpike, 2018.

4 See the account of this painful learning process in Young, 1998.

5 There is a highly jaundiced take on this transition in Edgerton, 2018, chapters 18-20.

6 See Norfield, 2016, although he still places Britain in the Premier League.

7 Young, 1998, p258.

8 Callinicos, 1997.

9 Callinicos, 2016.

10 The detailed assessment in Stafford, 2018, suggests that, while some financial activities will be split, with work shifting to the continent, London will continue to dominate key areas such as trading in equities and derivatives and to provide the physical data infrastructure for a huge mass of international financial transactions.

11 The other freedoms are of goods, services and capital: see Barnard, 2016.

12 Buck, 2007. See also the overviews in Barnard, 2016, chapters 1 and 15.

13 See, on the acceleration in the trade slowdown, Roberts, 2018.

14 Barker, 2018a.

15 Atkins and Barker, 2018.

16 Barker, 2018b.

17 I am grateful for the Polish example to a paper by Aleks Szczerbiak, “The Impact of the Eurozone, Migration and Brexit Crises on Euroscepticism in Party Politics”, at the Department of European and International Studies research seminar, King’s College London, 28 November 2018.

18 Toynbee, 2018.

19 See on the far-right realignment Raw, 2018.

20 Chessum, 2018.

21 For recent examples, see Lapavitsas, 2018, Elliott, 2018 and Blakeley, 2018. See also the discussion in Callinicos, 2018, pp13-16.

22 See the reaffirmation of this stance in Callinicos, 2015.

23 See the sceptical discussion of the BoE forecasts of doom by the anti-Brexit Paul Krugman—Krugman, 2018.

25 Lichfield, 2018.

26 Raphael, 2018.


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